Sex after menopause can be a tricky thing. While it’s natural for couples to have less sex as they get older (for many reasons), many women find themselves with a reduced desire for sex, and struggle to maintain an active sex life after the effects of menopause have kicked in.
So, what kinds of changes occur after menopause to bring about these changes in sex drive? It could be several things:
A reduction in the production of estrogen and testosterone can cause a woman to experience lower libido, making it harder to become aroused.
VAGINAL DRYNESS DUE TO LESS BLOOD FLOW
The dip in hormones can also reduce blood flow to the vagina, causing a condition called vaginal atrophy. When this happens, the tissues around the vagina become thin and drier, which can make sex uncomfortable or even painful.
BLADDER CONTROL PROBLEMS
As you get older, it’s common for your pelvic floor muscles to weaken, especially if you haven’t been diligent about keeping them strong. This can cause your bladder to leak unexpectedly, especially when extra pressure is placed upon it, like during sex. (Read: How to avoid peeing during sex.)
While depression is less common as people get older, it can still contribute to changes in how you feel about your body and sex. Older adults with other medical conditions may be more likely to experience depression. Depression is never normal, and should always be treated.
Added stress can dampen the mood, and let’s face it, when women are approaching menopause it’s often a very stressful time of life. On top of the changes that are happening to her body, she’s also often juggling getting kids through college, at the height of a career, and potentially managing aging parents.
A hallmark symptom of menopause, hot flashes can certainly kill a mood quickly. Not only are they uncomfortable, but when they occur at night, they can often leave women awake and unable to get the shuteye they need, leaving them tired and irritable the next day. Not a great recipe for sex.
OTHER HEALTH CONCERNS
Women at this age may be experiencing other health concerns, outside of menopause, that make it harder to get in the mood for sex. And certain medications may also lower your libido.
CAN WOMEN STILL ENJOY SEX AFTER MENOPAUSE?
With all these cards stacked against them, is it even possible for a woman to enjoy sex after menopause? Yes! It just may take a little extra work.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been shown to have a positive effect on libido, as well as managing other symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes. This therapy does not come without risks though, so be sure to talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of HRT before deciding to undergo treatment.
ELIMINATE VAGINAL DRYNESS
Many women are not aware that vaginal dryness is a symptom of menopause and are too embarrassed to bring the topic up to their doctor, despite the pain and discomfort it can cause. But there are many treatments for this condition. Topical hormone treatments, creams, lubrication during sex, and HRT can all help improve symptoms of vaginal dryness. There are even medications on the market that can improve symptoms. Talk to your doctor about your options if you suffer from this common menopausal symptom.
ELIMINATE PAIN DURING SEX
Many women experience pain during sex once they reach menopause. As with other symptoms, a decrease in estrogen is often to blame. Additionally, many women who have pain begin associating it with sex and may start to clench their muscles before intercourse even begins, making their pain worse.
If you experience pain during sex, talk to your doctor. She may prescribe hormone treatments like the ones listed above. Using lubricants during sex can also help a lot, and it’s important to remember to take your time. Give your body the time it needs to become aroused by engaging in extended foreplay and talk with your partner about what feels good to you.
USE IT OR LOSE IT
Having more sex can help you out here. When you are aroused, you increase the blood flow to your genitals and improve your overall sexual health. If it hurts to have intercourse try clitoral stimulation – with a partner or by yourself – to help improve blood flow and your sexual health.
GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR IMPROVING YOUR SEXUAL HEALTH
Apart from managing the symptoms of menopause, there are many things you can do regularly that can improve your sexual health. This goes for everyone – not just women going through menopause.
The connection between working out and libido for women is still unclear, but staying active improves your overall health mentally, physically, and emotionally, so it certainly can’t hurt.
Smoking decreases blood flow, which may affect your ability to become aroused.
Don’t drink too much. While alcohol may increase your initial sexual desire, too much of it can have a negative effect on your physical arousal. Moderation is key here, so don’t overindulge.
DO YOUR PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISES
Having a healthy pelvic floor is important at any age. Keep your pelvic floor muscles strong by doing kegel exercises (be sure to discuss with your doctor or PT first). Not only can this improve sexual function, but a strong pelvic floor can prevent unwanted bladder leaks.
HOW TO TURN A WOMAN ON WITH MENOPAUSE
Wondering how to help get your menopausal partner in the mood? Try these tips.
COMMUNICATE – BOTH BEFORE AND DURING SEX
For women, so much of sex is psychological. Get close to your partner by talking intimately with her both before and during sex. Be attentive to her needs and concerns and keep the lines of communication open.
LEARN MORE ABOUT MENOPAUSE
Knowing what your partner is going through will help make you more understanding and supportive. Learning more about the symptoms of menopause can also help assure you that what your partner is experiencing is natural.
ASK WHAT FEELS BEST
As you go, ask how she’s feeling. Ask her what feels good, and have her tell you what’s feeling uncomfortable.
TRY DIFFERENT POSITIONS
Sometimes a change in position can make a world of difference. So mix it up and try something new.
GIVE HER TIME
Foreplay is often overlooked, as many couples focus on the main event. Make sure to engage in lots of foreplay to help get her in the mood and build up to sex. It will be more enjoyable for you both.
TRY DIFFERENT TIMES OF THE DAY
You may find that your partner is exhausted at the end of the day. Mix it up a bit – you may find that she’s much more energized at a different time.
FIND OTHER WAYS TO CONNECT
Do things together to help build your intimacy. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but a regular date night or time for just the two of you can help keep a relationship strong and can help you form a deeper connection once you’re ready for sex.
Finally, we can’t stress enough the importance of good communication. Learn what works for you and communicate that to your partner. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need to be having sex to be happy, but the truth is that whatever works for you is completely fine. That may be moving to more clitoral stimulation or snuggling – whatever makes you feel good. Focus on what makes you and your partner happy and don’t worry about what you think others are doing or what you think you should be doing.